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What Does Coconut Water Taste Like? How Is It Different Than Coconut Milk?

Are you here to find out what does coconut water taste like? We have curated an FAQ and details about what coconut water tastes like, where it comes from, and how it’s different from coconut milk. 

Americans have been pounding back shredded coconut to use in cakes, pies and cookies for decades, but the coconut itself has been a relative mystery in mainstream cooking until recently.

Coconut water is now a much-beloved means of refreshment, with great hydrating effects that make it all the more appealing. 

Extracted from coconuts, coconut water has become a versatile drink and has gained quite the fame as a trendy sports drink.

Many find fresh coconut water to be a perfect way to beat the summer heat or as a highlight experience when enjoying tropical destinations—enjoyed straight out of a young, fresh coconut. 

In the tropics, where coconuts are abundant, access to this satisfying drink can be as easy as having a local climb up a tree and hacking a coconut down.

That said, most of us aren’t equipped for that kind of high-flying acrobatics with a giant machete, so we get processed coconut water from the grocery store.

Pro Tip: Another term for coconut water is coconut juice and they are the same thing: mostly clear liquid that naturally occurs inside the whole young coconut.
What does coconut water taste like?

Many people, especially those who are deprived of fresh coconuts, often ask, “what does coconut water taste like?” 

We’re so glad you asked!

As a simple, pure drink, coconut water straight from the coconut has a light consistency and a distinct vegetal taste a bit like aloe. 

It has a very mild, nearly imperceptible coconut finish that has a tinge of earthy notes because coconut water isn’t sweet.

If you’re wanting to try a sip of coconut water, don’t expect the full-bodied, nearly sweet vanilla flavors we often associate with coconut-flavored baked goods or even the rich, robust fatty flesh of the coconut meat.

Coconut water doesn’t look the same as coconut milk: not completely clear like tap or spring water, but not solid, creamy white like coconut milk, either.

Packaged, grocery-store coconut water taste will vary between brands because they use preservatives, additives and flavorings to allow for shelf-stability.

Cooking down coconut water can also amplify the coconut flavor in certain dishes and is a staple for desserts, curries, stews, dressings, and sauces.

What is coconut water?

Contents

Coconut water is the liquid product found inside the fresh coconut.

It is formed within the shell of the coconut itself, which is the fruit of the coconut tree. 

Since it is made within the sealed coconut fruit, the transparent liquid is sterile and is considered naturally-occurring water. 

Also considered a liquid endosperm, coconut water is vital to the process of creating coconut flesh. 

As the coconut matures, some of the coconut water hardens and turns into the edible white flesh lining on the inside of the coconut, which is also called the coconut meat. 

Coconut water has fewer calories, less sugar, and less sodium, with more potassium than most sports drinks. 

This is why simple coconut water has become an excellent choice for athletes in training and people who prefer non sugar-laden sweet drinks that still quench the thirst after a day of rigorous activities. 

Many consider coconut water to be super hydrating, which can prevent cramping and muscle strain, especially in the hottest conditions. 

The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed that coconut water might be better than sports drinks or regular water at replenishing body fluids.

Drinking coconut water enhanced with sodium is also great for post-exercise rehydration with better fluid tolerance. 

This is why coconut water’s popularity as a sports drink for athletes and as a trendy fitness refreshment has undoubtedly risen. 

Coconut water doesn’t entirely taste like coconut at all and is distinguishable from coconut flesh or coconut milk. 

The coconut water’s taste can depend on where the coconut tree is grown, with saline content in the soil, climate, and nearness to the sea being variable factors. 

Coconut water has a milder taste than the coconut itself, with sweet, salty, and nutty hints of the fruit incorporated into each sip. 

It’s a well-balanced refreshment for those who aren’t into drinks that are too sweet, making coconut water a satisfying drink for your taste buds. 

Coconut water is also considered a versatile component of the coconut fruit, with its natural sweetness and savoy notes providing a unique flavor in different cooking techniques. 

Coconut water can be used as braising liquid for different dishes and is a staple ingredient for many cuisines such as Vietnamese and Cambodian cooking. 

While many cuisines use wine as a common ingredient, Vietnamese and Cambodian cuisine highlights coconut water as a flavor enhancer, which is used in a cooking technique known as kho.

This cooking technique primarily utilizes coconut water to enhance the flavor of different proteins, which is used for stews and braises. 

The Hawaiians call coconut water “Noelani,” which means “dew from the heavens.” 

Coconuts usually thrive in mineral-rich soils near seawater, which is also why the nutritional profile of this natural beverage is pretty impressive. 

Coconut water extracted from fresh coconut is absolutely safe to drink, with each coconut containing up to 1000ml of coconut water depending on the size and shape of the fruit. 

Coconut water is one of the most famous plant-based drink options available for sale in the market. 

This natural product fuels an $8 billion industry in market value around the world, and is expected to reach $15 billion by 2027.

This burgeoning trend means that it’s getting easier to try and buy shelf-stable coconut water locally instead of having to go climb a coconut palm by yourself.

Does coconut water go bad?

Unlike H2O, which theoretically has an indefinite shelf life, coconut water can go bad after a certain period. 

The duration in which coconut water can be consumed safely can differ significantly depending on weather and other conditions, such as exposure to seawater and the time since the coconut was opened. 

Raw coconut water can often show a slight pink hue before changing color after exposure to light. 

After extraction, fresh coconut water will start to rot, and you can identify this because it starts losing its fresh, mild flavor, becoming sour instead. 

Packaged coconut water has use-by-date markers that you should observe. 

Different brands and types of coconut water options have longer or shorter expiration dates depending on the process that the product undergoes. 

Some coconut waters are pasteurized, while some are full of added sugars or preservatives to lengthen their shelf life. 

An example of a coconut water product is Vita Coco, which is packed in Tetra Paks. 

Each Tetra Pak of Vita Coco has a shelf life of one year from the date of its production at room temperature, with some products packaged to last even longer. 

However, once any of these containers are opened and exposed to air, you’ll need to place them in a refrigerator and consume them within 24 to 48 hours before they turn sour. 

On the other hand, raw coconut water will spoil a lot quicker than most of the pasteurized and sweetened versions added with preservatives. 

It’s essential to take note of the changes that the coconut water may undergo, such as color and odor changes, which are clear signs that they aren’t fit for consumption any longer.

How to store coconut water

Many coconut water products can be stored for a long time, as long as it remains unopened at room temperature and used by the expiration date. 

But once the coconut water is exposed to air, the easiest way to store it is by putting its original packaging inside the fridge. 

Whether extracted fresh from raw coconut or from packaged products, opened coconut water should be stored inside the refrigerator and will remain good to consume for up to 2 days. 

It is also suggested that opened coconut water should not be left outside refrigeration for more than 3 to 4 hours; otherwise, it will run the risk of immediate spoilage. 

You can store coconut water even longer by freezing it inside a zip lock bag or turning it into ice cubes. 

However, freezing coconut water causes it to lose some of its delicate sweetness and flavor, so consider freezing it only to use for smoothies or specific recipes where the slight loss of flavor isn’t entirely an issue.

Coconut water vs coconut milk

Coconut water and coconut milk from coconut fruit are the most common ingredients for many delicious dishes and drinks. 

However, despite the two coming from the same nut, they have exciting differences when it comes to certain qualities and flavors. 

Coconut water is 94% water, which can be consumed directly without any need for processing. 

It is naturally made and gets formed within the coconut to form into coconut flesh. 

On the other hand, coconut milk has gone through certain processes turning it into a finished product. 

Coconut milk is mostly made from coconut flesh, which is firmly pressed to extract its rich white milk. 

In terms of texture, coconut water is just like water, being transparent and often opaque with coconut flesh particles. 

Processed coconut milk is denser, more viscous, and has an identifiable milky white color. 

When it comes to taste, coconut water is mild, with a slight sweetness with hints of being nutty and somewhat salty.

While coconut milk is much sweeter, with a floral scent and the predominant nutty flavor of the coconut it’s extracted from.

We have curated this list of coconut milk recipes for you to try too!

The bottom line

Whether using coconut water to enhance your recipes or consuming it directly as a refreshing drink, it’s undeniable that coconut water has long held a valuable place as a favorite among nature’s organic products. 

Even before it got packaged into products in a multi-billion dollar industry, access to this arguably delectable drink is enjoyed simply by finding a tall, coconut tree that leaned heavily with ready coconuts.

Learn more about how to tell if coconut meat or coconut milk have gone bad here.

Coconut Water & Fruit Popsicles

Coconut Water & Fruit Popsicles

Include the mild, fresh taste of hydrating coconut water to these frozen fruity treats!

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ c high quality, unsweetened fresh coconut water
  • 1/4 c fresh Meyer lemon juice, strained
  • 3/4 c pineapple juice, preferably from pressed ripe pineapple but canned is okay too
  • 20 fresh raspberries, rinsed, drained and patted dry
  • 1 c of chopped strawberries
  • 1 popsicle mold

Instructions

  1. Except for raspberries, combine all ingredients in a liquid measuring cup and stir to combine. 
  2. Place 5 raspberries and 1 T of chopped strawberries in each popsicle mold. 
  3. With a funnel or spoon, slowly fill each popsicle mold.
  4. Insert the popsicle sticks/cover and snap closed. 
  5. Freeze for at least four hours, preferably overnight.
  6. When ready to serve, run the covered mold under warm water.
  7. Slide out the number of pops desired, and move the mold back to the freezer right away with any remaining popsicles.

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